Alberta Blue Cross Modernizes Critical IT Systems With Accelerated Development And Testing
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Alberta Blue Cross is Alberta’s largest benefits carrier, providing supplementary health and dental benefits to 1.6 million people.

Challenge

With legacy systems no longer able to keep pace with business pressures, Alberta Blue Cross needed to completely rebuild its core Administration application. The largest project ever undertaken within Alberta Blue Cross, this multi-year effort had the attention of the entire organization, from the board of directors to frontline staff.

In replacing its aging IT system with an Oracle database-centric application, Alberta Blue Cross faced several data-related challenges:

  • Sprawl of physical databases rapidly drove up server, storage, software licensing, and administrative costs.
  • Database refreshes took one to two days to complete, including the time required for multiple teams to approve and process requests.
  • A new data model, business rule changes, and a high volume of existing data meant that the performance and quality of data conversion scripts was critical.

Citing data management as a process bottleneck and a significant driver of cost, Alberta Blue Cross chose Delphix to accelerate development and testing for a modernization effort that needed to be successful.

Solution

The initial Delphix rollout allowed Alberta Blue Cross to quickly deliver data to sandbox environments for individual developers or small teams. Eventually, teams built out more extensive environ-ments around the Delphix data platform. By virtualizing each of the five databases essential to the Administration application, Alberta Blue Cross could quickly execute a refresh of the complete environment. Developers worked during the day, with the full environment refreshed every night via automated scripts.

At the height of the project, Alberta Blue Cross had created some 18 environments containing over 70 virtualized databases. As go-live approached, Alberta Blue Cross leveraged Delphix to create a complete, production-like environment for the purposes of cutover rehearsal. In addition, they provisioned a troubleshooting environment to enable support personnel to replicate issues reported in production, after go-live. This environment was refreshed nightly to provide support teams with current data.

Results

On-demand access to data coupled with fast refreshes allowed teams to reach implementation dates with increased levels of confidence. Moreover, the environments built in support of cutover and break-fix processes ensured a smooth transition to the new system:

  • Refreshes of databases that once took one to two days could be executed in just minutes with Delphix.
  • Delphix helped Alberta Blue Cross thoroughly test critical data conversion scripts, enabling teams to hit key project milestones on time.
  • Testing teams were able to iteratively rehearse cutover events, with the ability to rewind data to earlier states after executing key cutover steps.
  • Troubleshooting environments helped Alberta Blue Cross remediate errors and reach steady-state operations within three months of go-live. Alberta Blue Cross conducted daily meetings to discuss production issues, analyze solutions, and plan corrective actions.
The impact of Delphix cannot be minimized. The troubleshooting processes we utilized would have taken multiple days per iteration without it. This would have had a significant impact on the fatigue of our key staff, heightened customer dissatisfaction with delayed or incorrect bills, and ultimately created strong negative perceptions of Alberta Blue Cross within the marketplace. Instead, this project was a huge success.
David Miller,
VP and CIO

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